The first days back to school are always a whirlwind of activity. We started on a Monday, so the end of the week was especially windy!
This year 6th grade is piloting combining our reading and English classes. Basically we took the positions of the reading teacher and the English teacher and shook it up a bit. I know the scheduling was difficult, and I am very thankful that our administration took the extra time to try this.
I.LOVE.THIS. We read. We write. We write. We read. It just makes sense.
Monday - We started our time together with a challenge. The Marshmallow Challenge to be exact. This was an activity I had pinned and wanted to try. After attending EdcampEOC and listening to Scott Haselwood share his experiences with it, I knew it would become our first #amazeballs activity.
My goal was for the students to discover this class would be one that stretched their thinking, encouraged discussion and collaboration, and, quite simply, would be fun. I feel this was accomplished. While not every group was able to meet the challenge, everyone was able to learn. Our pictures are posted here. I realize this is more of a STEM activity, but I can make almost anything in to an ELA assignment. :-) This first writing from students will help guide my instruction.
Tuesday - Today involved completing the book walk activity that I had wanted to do on Monday, but we ran out of time. This summer I read Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer. After listening to Jason Stephenson talk about how he implements this in his high school English class, I knew I had to try. (Have I mentioned how COLLABORATION is SO IMPORTANT for educators?)
First I told students that I was not concerned with AR points (cue the collective sigh of relief). Here were my other points:
- It is okay to read a book you have read before. You will probably understand it better/find new ideas the second time around. Don't we rewatch movies we love? Why not reread books we love?
- It is okay to read a book below your AR level. Reading should be a pleasurable experience. If it is a good story and entertains me, why does it have to be "at my level"?
- It is okay to read a book above your level if the subject interests you. However, you have to make sure you are checking for understanding.
- It is okay to abandon a book. I have abandoned many movies - I can do the same with books.
Maybe it is this particular group of students. Maybe it was the freedom to read whatever they wanted. All I know is that students were excited to read and spent the next 20 minutes engrossed in their books.
The other activity on my Tuesday plan was OPTIC. This is a tried and true activity I do every year. Students enjoy it. I like it because it is a non-threatening activity that gets everyone involved. It also sets the stage for looking closely at images so that we can do our weekly 7 Word Sentences. I was only able to get to this with my 3rd/4th hour class. I was able to fit it in on Friday for my other two sections.
Wednesday - We discussed Formal/Informal Language. I always do this at the beginning of the year so students know my expectations for writing. I blogged about this last year, and I pretty much followed it again this year. Writing in text message language is surprising difficult for some 6th graders. I'm going to look at this like a positive problem during this lesson.
Thursday - Part of one class period was spent in library orientation. We spent some of our time together with our first AoW. We annotated together to give students a model to use during subsequent lessons. I keep telling students Reading is Thinking. Some have blank expressions on their faces when I say this. We will need to spend extra time next week really digging into annotating. Modeling my own thinking will be an integral part of helping them to understand.
My students were voracious readers this week. They have finished the books they checked out on Tuesday, and they all want to know the procedure for returning and checking out more. I don't know if this is because I allowed them to choose "easier" books, if it is because they choose books they enjoy, or because they don't have much homework yet. I've learned sometimes it is best not to question, so I am going with they are voracious readers. :-)
I freely admit that I was at a loss for Friday's plans. Each group of students is vastly different, and I am struggling a bit with pacing. My last section had ID pictures taken after library orientation, so tomorrow I need to take the other two sections. After stressing about it all night, I decided it would be okay if each section was different on Friday.
Friday - We reviewed Formal/Informal language and took a quiz. We had ID pictures taken. We had a fire drill. We prepared our Interactive Notebooks with our Table of Contents and our Reading Log. Basically we did whatever we had not yet gotten to during the week.
Saturday - No, we did not have school on Saturday. I just wanted to document that I spent 4 hours in my classroom on a Saturday to prepare for next week. Even though I worked all summer on gathering ideas, I find it difficult to actually plan the lessons until I know the students. And, from the amount of cars in the parking lot, I was not the only one to spend Saturday afternoon in my classroom.
I'm excited to share more with and learn from my students next week.